Media coverage of Hansarang Rural Cultural Foundation awards ceremony

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2017-04-20 Hansarang Foundation Award ceremony

I remember the moment I was nominated for the special “Social Contribution” Prize awarded by the Hansarang Rural Cultural Foundation.

My response: “Hahaha. I know I won’t win, but it is nice to be nominated.”

Then later I heard that I was a finalist, that’s when I began to take it seriously. Then I was informed that I had won. So last night, it was a great feeling to be on the stage, accepting the award, still not quite believing that I had won.

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There have been a few news articles about it.

 

 

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Eunkoo Lee captured my “Did I really win this?” moment.

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I was one of the six award winners. It was a great moment.

Then there were several photos of the award winners.

I also took some individual photos. The Hansarang Foundation had a professional photographer snapping away taking photos anytime we stopped to pose for photos.

I took photos with several of the VIPs in attendance. It was a wonderful night, one that I will never forget.

And… several TNKR volunteers, students and fans joined! I was so happy to share this moment with them.

They were cheering so loudly that even the announcer commented on the TNKR table!

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And of course, I would not have won it without TNKR co-director Eunkoo Lee!

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2017-04-20 Visit to UN office, TV interview

  • Yesterday morning:
    • I was delighted to be part of an interview with one of the Big 3 networks in South Korea.
    • Part of it included another visit to the UN’s Seoul office.
  • Yesterday evening (my next post)
    • I was honored to win an award from a Korean foundation.

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Hwang Cheol was being interviewed about his campaign to have his father released from North Korea. The TV team interviewed a few of us to provide perspective to his campaign. We then wrapped up with a visit to the UN office.

Yes, they also interviewed me. I usually have a love-hate relationship with the media. As it has been said, “The interview is the honeymoon, publication is the divorce.”

The host who interviewed me is so lovely. She seemed to enjoy the interview and wasn’t the least bit shy when it was time to take photos! Sometimes I think I am in the wrong field, so many of the volunteers who collaborate with me run from the cameras. I remember one day that I received an email complaint from one guy whining that I’m always in the TNKR photos. That’s back when I used to answer critics, I politely informed him, “You idiot, if you had joined any of our sessions, you would know that most volunteers run from the cameras and our default with refugees is not to show their faces unless they make it clear they don’t mind.”

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2017-04-13 Pushed out of our office

Yesterday was our first full day back at the TNKR office after the TNKR directors visited England for a week.

  • Tutoring sessions
  • Speech coaching
  • Visit to an event location
  • Planning meeting for Global Leadership Forum

It finally happened. We ran out of space, so the TNKR co-directors were pushed out of their own office.

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2017-04-02 Track 2: Refugees taking charge

TNKR started in March 2013 as “English Matching.” It was a hobby for the co-founders, as they did this on the side. TNKR is now an emerging NGO with its own office. We still have no paid staff, but despite this, we have held 55 Language Matching sessions with about 270 refugees and more than 560 volunteer coaches and tutors. Yesterday’s session was special because it was a Track 2 Matching session. Whereas we hold at least one Track 1 session per month at which refugees choose tutors for English study, we only hold Track 2 sessions (public speaking and other communication) when enough refugees request it.

Yesterday 7 refugees chose among 9 coaches (3 had last minute scheduling and other problems so there were 9 instead of 12). TNKR is a self-study project, with the focus being on refugees finding their own way and telling their own stories. We connect them with volunteer tutors and coaches to help them with that. After having orientation and discussing their projects, the refugees are really eager to get started.

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Hansarang Rural Cultural Foundation honors TNKR co-founder with award

List of 11th Hansarang Rural Cultural Foundation Award Recipients (6 people)

  1. Category: Special Award – Social Contribution
  • Name: Casey Lartigue
  • Home Region: Seoul
  • Position: International Director, Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR) Global Education Center

Contributed to the social integration of North Korean refugees by providing free English learning opportunities

Casey Lartigue, an American, is the co-founder along with South Korean Eunkoo Lee of the Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR) Global Education Center, a non-profit that provides free one-on-one English learning opportunities to North Korean refugees and helps them discover their English voice. Lartigue serves as the organization’s International Director.

In the United States, Lartigue worked in various education-related positions as a policy analyst. It was while volunteering to help orphans and low-income children in Seoul that Lartigue became committed to helping North Korean refugees. Realizing that English is one of the primary barriers faced by North Koreans, Lartigue began focusing on helping them with their English language needs.

TNKR has created a system where volunteer English tutors help resettled North Korean refugees by teaching them English. More than 550 volunteers have assisted 266 North Korean refugees through one-on-one tutoring. The volunteer tutors act not only as English teachers but also as mentors for the refugees, by helping them find their own voices and becoming positive role models for other refugees.

For Lartigue, volunteerism is not simply a duty but a way to live his deeply-held principles. He hopes for a positive cycle whereby his North Korean refugee students, after successfully adapting to the South Korean society, will go on to live life as they choose, and that they will make the most out of their new found freedom..

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Random thoughts, rainy Friday morning

Some random TNKR stuff this Friday morning:
* Who can spit in the face of someone who is smiling? That’s an old Korean saying. This morning, a refugee who recently joined our program was late for her class, again. I was going to read her the Riot Act, but she had such a big smile on her face, greeted me with such a happy “Good morning!!!” that even the grumpy TNKR co-director laughed, decided to save the lecture for another day.
* Volunteer doesn’t have to mean low quality: We have had 50 people apply to join TNKR since March 11. That’s even though we have raised our expectations for volunteers. I’m happy to report that I have failed, once again, to destroy TNKR!
* Big Day Tomorrow: I emailed all of the applicants accepted for tomorrow’s orientation for Track 2. I hope others will join the Open House, but the Orientation is invitation-only for those who have already fulfilled all of the items on the application checklist.
* Reality: Some people whine that I mention TNKR’s pathetic budget too often, but I have learned when I mention it that we get some donations, when I don’t mention it, we don’t get any donations. So what should I do? Give in to the whiners?
* Resumes: TNKR is volunteer, so perhaps applicants don’t take it seriously. But you would not believe how many resumes I receive with the title “Resume” or “TNKR resume.” What ends up happening is that the resumes get labeled “Resume (1)” and “Resume (2).” If your application has ever gotten rejected by HR or managers at companies, sometimes it is because of the screening process. As one executive VP told me years ago, “If people don’t use common sense when applying for a job, they won’t use it after they get hired, either.”
* All alone: Eunkoo Lee, Youngmin Kwon, Dave Fry and Tony Docan-Morgan are all out of the office today. I’m the only authorized staff member here today. So everyone messaging me should understand that I might be slower than usual in responding.
* Be careful what you ask for: I sent out a reminder to tutors a few days ago to send in their late reports, so it has been raining reports on my head ever since then! Sometimes I think I would be better off just turning TNKR into a hiking club. Then I wouldn’t have to deal with so many reports and other administrative tasks. It is now the end of the month, so I will be going through all of the reports (more than 200 again) from this month.
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2017-03-25 “Hello, Konglish!” Hello, Jinhee Han!

The “steak” of Teach North Korean Refugees is our English tutoring project. The “sizzle” is when refugees in our public speaking project give public speeches. Yesterday, before a crowded room at Seoul KOTESOL, North Korean refugee Jinhee Han gave her first public speech in English. She was amazing, the crowd was really interested: She was an English teacher in North Korea before she escaped to South Korea.

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Jinhee first joined TNKR in 2013, back when TNKR was “English Matching,” and still just a hobby for the co-founders. Jinhee has remained in touch, although she has been too busy with her life teaching North Korean refugees. Plus, she is embarrassed to be introduced as an English teacher from North Korea because people will have high expectations about her English. I think because of it that she has avoided talking with people about her background. Yesterday, she gave her first public speech in English, discussing her English teaching career in North Korea and also discussing English education in North Korea. The crowd was clearly moved by her speech. She still prefers to remain anonymous, but last night she let us know how much she enjoyed it, and that she is willing to do it again. She has watched TNKR and stayed in touch over the years. She said she was crying as she listened to our speeches, she could truly see the impact that TNKR has had on North Korean refugees, and she thanked the many volunteers who have given so much of their time to help NK refugees adjust. We have encouraged her over the years not to give up on studying English because of the expectations some have and that she should ignore the quick-to-judge people.

She said that she felt so encouraged seeing that so many foreigners were so interested in hearing about her experience as English teacher, she would have never believed this could happen.

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Who was the hardest-working man not affiliated with the conference organizing team? TNKR Assistant Director Dave Fry! The co-directors were able to relax, think about their speeches, and provide support rather than having to lead at every moment.

Dave has the right personality to be the official TNKR Greeter!

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After we wrapped up our panel, it was then photo time! We got a lot of great feedback. People were moved by Jinhee’s speech. They also loved hearing what TNKR co-director Eunkoo Lee had to say–it was also her first formal speech in English at a conference. I had to talk her into it, she is a shy lady, but she presented great insights about what refugees tell her about TNKR. In my case, I was amazed that several people told me that they came out to hear me speak, that some of them are regular readers of my Korea Times column. A few who have heard me speak say they learn something new every time, even though I am always talking about TNKR.

Some of the people we met promised they would get involved with TNKR, as a volunteer or fundraiser. One of the attendees even pledged to sell some of her artwork, and to donate the proceeds to TNKR!

Assistant Academic Adviser Youngmin Kwon is not pictured many times, that’s because he was the man behind the camera yesterday!

It was a team effort and an enjoyable time informing so many people about challenges North Korean refugees face and the role that TNKR has embraced in trying to give support to some of them.

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2017-03-24 Be Nice to Your Favorite NGO

Meeting #1: South Korean professional visiting from Hong Kong. He wanted to find ways he could help from Hong Kong.

Meeting #2: Feedback session with a North Korean refugee who arrived in South Korea in December 2015 and joined our program December 2016 after waiting for a few months.

I imagine that some of my peers who are involved in advocacy, abstract or analytical work about North Korea rarely or never have NK refugees seeking them out to thank them. Some of their work may be valuable, but it isn’t the type of work that leads to the people who benefit from what they are doing to praise them.

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